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“The difference between standard of living and quality of life is that standard of living depends on how much money we have and how we spend it, while quality of life depends on how much time we have and how we spend it.” – David Sim „Soft City”, 2020

With our current lifestyles, one of the most important resources is time from the point of view of city dwellers, and the quality of life itself is closely connected. The organisation of urban space as a dense, multifunctional structure, in which necessary functions are within easy walking or cycling distance, allows city inhabitants to save time spent on commuting, with a direct influence on their quality of life.

The concept of the compact city discussed earlier views a city’s structure as a number of regions, parts or districts with distinct centres, having highly diversified functions and differing in character. The division into districts becomes a cultural element of the city and an essential element of the urban lifestyle. As a result, the centres adopt an idea of city planning that meet the inhabitants’ needs concerning work, leisure, shopping, and entertainment. These needs can be satisfied within‚ self-sufficient districts’ which can function with minimal car use.

“The factors that create a sustainable city have become the same factors that determine liveable cities. These include mixed-use facilities, good connectivity, high quality public spaces, local character and flexibility. When all these characteristics exist simultaneously, they create a mix of sustainability, social benefits and a dynamic economy. Such cities can reduce the need for car travel, energy consumption and emissions, use local materials, encourage entrepreneurship and create communities with which people identify.” – Rob Adams, Transforming Australian Cities, 2009

Many European metropolises form a mosaic of areas with slightly different characteristics, their distinguishing elements are often the public spaces: squares, transport nodes, and main streets, which become a certain kind of centre offering a combination of functions. This concept assumes that cities should be organized in such a way that in the vicinity of their place of residence a person can study, work, go shopping, and spend free time. This is facilitated by multifunctional projects combining office, residential, service, cultural and recreational functions. From the place where they live, a person can expect to be able to take care of all their basic needs within a distance of no more than a 15-minute walk or cycle ride – an expectation that also applies to their place of work.

The structure of cities as systems of independent regions – parts of districts developing around public transport nodes – can be observed in many metropolises of the world. „Cities of neighbourhoods” include London, Paris, Berlin, New York and San Francisco. London, for example, is a mosaic of areas and places, often with a distinctive identity, such as, among others; the City – the business district; Notting Hill – the artists’ district; Camden – the alternative district. The model of development of a polycentric urban structure with optimal density depending on the accessibility to transport nodes and distance from the centre, proposed in 2000 in the British strategic document Towards an Urban Renaissance, has become the basis for the development strategy of London and many other British cities.

Paris – 15-minutes scale

Starting in 2019, the 15-minute city concept is being developed in Paris. It involves reorganizing the districts of Paris to transform them into a network of self-sufficient neighbourhoods / districts. According to the concept, key elements such as education, healthcare, work, shops, entertainment and green spaces should all be available within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of the place of residence. The implementation of the concept is to be facilitated by limiting car traffic, providing more space for pedestrians, and arranging green areas on previously inaccessible roofs. The Paris authorities, implementing the ideas of inward city development, are adapting former public administration buildings and post offices located in suitable city centre locations for housing purposes.

More information you can find the “A city in good shape. Trends that are changing cities” report.